Domain: France (Mid 1800’s)
Premiered in: Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Voiced By: Paige O’hara
A “simple” village girl whose name means “Beauty,” Belle is the one and only Disney Princess whom I feel falls under the category of being a nerd insomuch that she has an obsession with reading and books that exceeds even my own. For anyone of her time period, that is nothing short of a miracle and for a woman that was just inconceivable. She was the literal talk of the town with people literally following in her wake commenting of her oddities and how she isn’t like the rest of them. Considering that the whole village is nothing but sheep, particularly in the presence of Gaston, Belle should consider that as a compliment.
Belle is incredibly smart and very well read for her age, somewhere about the age of eighteen, and she’s in possession of a precarious thing that I like to call courageously stupid. That is to say that while I’m more than sure that Belle can recite some books from beginning to end with but a glance at the title, she has done some things that earn either an appreciative whistle of respect or a face palm of disbelief. For the former, Belle was not only willing to become a prisoner if it meant her father’s freedom but that she was perfectly willing to flat out refuse the demands of her jailer, a literal beast in every sense of the word. I don’t care if the door between them was made of mahogany, I wouldn’t talk back to the likes of Beast without body armor and a trunk load of tranquilizer darts on hand.
Then there is the face palming moments such as when Belle tried to convince the villagers of her father’s sanity by way of showing them the Beast. Having read up on many an enchanted item in a vast variety of stories, why on earth did Belle fail to ask the mirror to specifically show the Beast at his kindest moments rather than those that made him look outright ferocious? That or she could have at least taken a moment to check and make sure what the mirror was showing first…
Speaking of the Beast… I shan’t talk too much of him as he’s next in line but I will say that Belle is a princess of France strictly through her marriage with him. I imagine that must have been a serious change for her considering that she had lived a provincial life with her eccentric engineer of a father with only a small helping of farm animals, and a rather magnificent Clydesdale named Phillipe, to keep her company in the village of idiots. While Belle had many friends amongst the staff at the castle, I can’t really call any one of them a companion to her as they did oftentimes defer to their master, though the teacup Chip comes awfully close with his daring rescue or Belle and her father.
Belle is also one of the Princesses of Heart and her embodiment I feel would be ingenuity. While not a mechanical genius like her father, Belle is again very well read for the time period and especially the region she calls home. Yes, she’s had her share of silly moments but those can be chalked up to her jumping the gun a wee bit too fast, something that anyone can be guilty of really considering the circumstances behind them. The fact remains that Belle doesn’t like to read, she loves it to such a degree that Beast, with advice of a certain candelabra, felt that the best gift for her was his royal library… I would not be at all surprised if one of her and Beast’s descendants happened to be named “Hermione” but that’s just me.
I’d speak of Belle’s domain but considering I’ve kind of covered it several times already with prior characters so I will instead focus on Beast’s castle when I speak of the prince himself next time.
Like the Princesses before her, Belle is graced with a “Palace Pet” whose appearance made me stop and blink in surprise. Her pet is a dog affectionately, or oddly, named Teacup and she looks to be an ancestor of a certain Lady if you catch my drift. Aside the tiara and the odd choice of collar, the one thing I can’t help but question about Teacup, and even Beast and Belle in general, are the decorative roses. I would think that, given the circumstances of the flower, that Beast would actually hate the things to such a point that he’d have them banished from the kingdom. Still, aside from that, the downside to Teacup is her origin story, that being that she and Belle met at the village square where Teacup was entertaining the masses by way of balancing apples upon her head.
So anyway, on to Belle’s redesign… Honestly, given the vast change predominately in Belle’s hairstyle alone, I can’t help but wonder if the redesigns of the Disney Princesses aren’t so much about changing how they originally looked so much as how they would look at a certain age. Remember, a majority of the Princesses are in their teens, with Snow White being fourteen and Ariel being only two years older. Comparing the two images of Belle side by side, I feel that the greatest difference is not so much external as it is internal. In her original design, Belle looks like a village girl experiencing everything that she has ever dreamed and more besides but in her redesign… she looks like she has that same joy but it is tempered by experience and maturity that she otherwise did not have prior to the events of the film itself.